I just attended a birth last night for a Bradley couple. I got a call at about 4pm from her husband because they were at the hospital (after having transfered from a birth center) and the staff were talking the "C-word". He was nervous and wasn't sure what to do. His wife was fully dilated and had been pushing for two hours in various positions but the baby just wouldn't move down. In my heart, once he said that, I knew that she probably really would need to have a cesarean and I offered to go to the hospital just to hold her hand and provide moral support.
Once I got there she was quite calm and surprisingly strong given the two days she had already been in active labor. Her husband too, still looked remarkably alert. They told me the positions she had tried. The staff was very supportive. Her OB when recommending the cesarean was compassionate, knowing that she really wanted to have her baby vaginally. After talking it over, she still wanted to try pushing some more in different positions just to see if that would help baby's head clear the pubic bone. She squatted down on the floor, pushed while standing and also tried hands and knees pushing. She pushed HARD. Strong woman.
But sometimes there is a baby in there who gets stuck. It does happen sometimes. And it's a bummer when it does, but the reality is that it is important to accept what is, and let go of unfulfilled expectation. Sometimes you just gotta get the baby out.
Cesareans save lives. Sometimes cesareans are unnecessary and that is what all the hubbub is about (as it should be), but when it's necessary, it's a gift of life. In this situation the mother would have lived, but not the baby. Incidentally the baby was transferred (GBS concerns and low blood oxygen levels) to the NICU unit at another hospital because the hospital where she delivered didn't have one. So now mama is separated from her baby and husband. Of everything that happened, that was the part that broke my heart. I feel that mother and baby should stay together always.
The days will be long for this couple. Breastfeeding will likely be impaired. Their birth has been a series of plan changes and disappointments, so I am hoping that she has magical nipples that that baby just grabs right onto when reunited. And if not, she'll need extra support for that too.
Not all things work out perfectly.
And yet, this is a strong family who I know will have a beautiful life together and I'm happy for them.
I feel that my job as a Bradley instructor isn't to lay guilt on people by holding natural childbirth up as the only standard by which "good births" can be measured. That isn't, and has never been, the point. To me, the point is to empower people with knowledge of how to have a natural childbirth and all that it can do for them and their baby, but also to know wise use of drugs and interventions if something abnormal presents itself. Any person who wears glasses, a hearing aid, or takes seasonal allergy medications should understand that sometimes the body needs some help.
As far as this couple is concerned, I sincerely hope they don't feel bad every single time they feel obligated to explain to someone why she needed a cesarean or why she may not be exclusively breastfeeding.